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Blue Diamond Development Uncertain After Supreme Court Decision

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Photo: Rick Cooper- Wikimedia

Photo: Rick Cooper- Wikimedia

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Las Vegas CBS KXNT- A recent opinion by the Nevada Supreme Court has removed one layer on a stack of challenges to a dense housing project that was planned for Blue Diamond Hill on the southwestern outskirts of Las Vegas. The decision represents a win for Gypsum Resources, which owns the parcel, because it invalidates a 2003 state law designed to protect the Red Rock Canyon and surrounding lands from zoning changes that could have permitted urban density on a rural parcel.

But the fate of the building project is unclear, according to the residents who spent significant time and energy fighting it for half a decade. Several residents of Blue Diamond Village, which sits below the 2,500-acre parcel owned by Gypsum, told KXNT they’ve watched closely as the company went to court with the state and the county to clear the path.

Meanwhile, they say, an agreement reached last year between the developer and the county created a new hurdle. The developer would have to build a new access road to mitigate congestion on Highway 159, the road to the Red Rock Conservation Area and the only road in and out of Blue Diamond.

“It would be hideously expensive,” said Max Heeman, President of the Red Rock Citizen’s Advisory Council, and a Blue Diamond resident. Heeman told KXNT the building the road would require “an engineering feat” because the terrain is steep and rocky.

Some Blue Diamond residents say it might have been worth the expense when Gypsum purchased the land during the real estate boom, but they question whether the return on investment would justify it now. Representatives of Gypsum Resources and its principal, developer Jim Rhodes, declined to comment.

County Commission has asked the BLM to explore a land swap. Blue Diamond resident Linda Goodman told KXNT the swap would “get him off the hill” — a reference to Rhodes — . But Heeman wants real estate depreciation to be taken into account when the new parcel is selected.

“We want an appraisal,” Heeman told KXNT, adding that the desire to protect Blue Diamond hill should not drive a process that rewards Rhodes and Gypsum with a parcel that’s worth more than the one they’re holding. Some are wondering whether Rhodes will hold out for a property of equal value to the 2003 purchase price of the Blue Diamond parcel.

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